My Cat is Alpha Dog of our Pack!


My cat rules the roost, I guess you would call that a “Roost Ruler”, I call her Alpha Dog!  I think, because she is the only cat in my house, she also thinks she is a dog.  She is markedly upset when she watches the dogs go outside, or when we leave on short vacations without her!

At night, all dogs sleep in my bedroom and she RACES into the bedroom and sits on the crate next to my side of the bed and waits for me.  I can’t shower alone, sometimes I have 3 dogs and a cat in the bathroom with me and if she is really lucky when I take a bath I let her sit out on the “island” that is me.  She sits on my legs and dips her tail and paws in the water and purrs with joy.  She is an integral part of our family and I love her (shhhhh I am kind of a secret cat person)!

She is a covert ninja and habitually jumps out from behind or beneath furniture to wreak havoc on my canine crew.  She flies through the air and instigates the “vader bomb” and other pro-wrestling maneuvers popping them in the face with her power paw and biting their legs and then running for the safety of her cat house.

I have big dogs they could kill my cat in the blink of an eye and I would never want to risk her life so because I am the alpha of my house I make sure my dogs have respect for my cat or any smaller dog that might enter my house.

I also have herding dogs and they must be taught to curb their natural chasing instinct and respect the cat!

Since my dogs were pups, I have made it a point that they are not allowed to chase or mistreat the cat no matter what she does to them.  Because of their obvious size difference they are simply not allowed to retaliate.  If, however, I think the cat has gone too far with her mischievous cat-like ways I use a squirt bottle.  Respect is a MUST at my house for everyone involved!

HOW?

I want everyone in my family to get along!

I keep my puppies or new adult dogs on a leash when they first come home.  They are not allowed full reign of the house until they earn it!  This allows me to teach them how to interact with everyone in my family including my cat!  This keeps them from forming naughty habits when it comes to the cat and everything else in my house.

By controlling their environment, I am conditioning them to accept the things that I think are important.  This also gives the other dogs and cat the ability to feel like their house is not being taken over.  When my other animals feel like there is a puppy “invasion” they can become withdrawn, angry, and defensive about their home, their “things” and sharing me.

Instead, they know the puppy’s or dog’s limits and where they are in the house.  The other animals can make the choice whether or not to come and interact with the new arrival.  Often, I think owners make the mistake of letting a new dog or puppy run freely through the house and torment the existing animals and family members!  This out of control feeling makes everyone feel hostile and belligerent and it is almost impossible to train an out of control dog or puppy!

I also teach my animals the “leave it” command early in training.  “Leave it” means you can’t look at, touch, chase or eat whatever I am referring to.  I start with food that I can control, I say “leave it” and don’t allow my dog access to the food.  Once he finally gives up trying, I click and reward with a better treat.

Continue putting down food and saying “leave it”, as your dog begins to ignore the food click and treat with the better treat.  Next put the food closer and closer, and if your dog is successful continue clicking and treating for his leaving the food alone.

If he is not successful and goes for the unavailable food back up and put the food out of his reach again until he can be successful.  The next step is to use the leave it command with a higher value treat and follow the same steps.

Soon you will have a dog that is actively leaving whatever item you ask him to because he knows he will get a better reward by listening to you.

So when Ninja cat flies out from behind the sofa, does a “Vader Bomb” (jumps on their back), bites my dog on the ear and runs off into the bedroom my dog simply looks up from where he is laying and gets my attention as if to say “I deserve a treat for that” and I must say I agree!  Each time my dogs treat the cat with love and respect or play gently with her they are significantly rewarded for their efforts!

This training regiment keeps the peace in my house and keeps my cat from being injured!  This way I have ultimate control and I get to snuggle with both the dogs and the cat!

CAUTION

Not all dogs can live safely with cats!  Some adult dogs are too prey driven to live safely with cats, if given the opportunity or if the cat runs some dogs will struggle to kill the cat.  I, personally, have never had a problem raising a puppy to live with an existing cat, however I have brought adult dogs into my home that I knew would never be safe to live with my cats.

When integrating a new adult dog, be sure to keep the dog on a leash and don’t allow him access to your house.  If you feel uneasy about incorporating the new dog there is probably a reason and another situation (without cats) may be needed!  Trust your instincts!  If there is staring, hackling, growling or any other aggressive behavior you may need to seek another home for the dog!  Never risk the lives or your existing animals to add a new pet to your home!  Safety first!!

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Comments

  1. Great post, I totally agree with not giving your new puppy or adopted dog free run of your home. High quality food rewards go a long way in reinforcing the good behaviour. I would take it one step further and suggest short and long term confinement. This would not only ensure the safety of other pets,it will also prevent your new dog from pooping and peeing where ever he wants. Short term is the use of a crate placed in the same room as you, and your dog will be in here if you can’t watch him. Long term confinement would be a room somewhere in your house where the dog can’t get out and there is nothing in the room except a soft place to lie down, a chew toy filled with food, a bowl of fresh water, and a bathroom placed in the farthest point away from where he sleeps. The dog would stay here when you need to be away for longer periods of time, say for work. When you use this method there is no room for mistakes.

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  2. Veronika Pfistershammer says:

    THANK YOU!!!!!

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  3. Cheryl says:

    I would like to know if this is also possible with chickens? Can you teach a dog to not hurt chickens? I have a cat and she doesn’t bother him at all, but I want to get some chickens and would like to know how to keep them safe? I had a dog previously that played with the cats and didn’t hurt them, but she killed all of my chickens! She even preyed them and went on the hunt for them and then tore them to shreds! Can I prevent this??

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    Pam Reply:

    I too have chickens and would like to know if this is a good way to get a golden retreiver to quit chasing and killing them. She plays with them when she catches them until they eventually die.

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    Minette Reply:

    Chickens are unlike cats because they do not live in the house with you. Equally this would be hard to teach your dog if your cat exclusively lived outside…then it would not be a part of your pack.

    The best thing to do is to teach your dog the “leave it” command and not allow it to chase or play with the chickens. You should be able to gain control, but use a leash at first and lots of good praise and motivation. Teach your dog to listen to you and leave the chickens alone.

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  4. Anne says:

    I have three dogs and they have all learned to leave the cats alone. However, when I have to leave the house, I do crate two of the dogs. I know that a pack mentality can set in when one dog starts to play with one of the cats. The other dogs could get involved and the situation could get out of control. I have not seen it happen with my current three dogs, but I do not want to take any chances.

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    Minette Reply:

    Good for you and good point!

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  5. M J says:

    My dogs have killed 3 of my cats over the past two years…when I’m home they all are fine and even sleep next to each other…if I leave the cats with the dogs and leave in my car…the dogs will kill the cats???????????

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    Minette Reply:

    Not all dogs are good with cats and I would err on the side of safety and not add anymore cats to your situation.

    Some dogs are respectful when the owner is present but their desires kick in when the owner leaves, however there are usually some signs of trouble.

    You may have to just be a dog parent from here on out!

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    Natalie Reply:

    Three cats in two years??? Seriously? And you kept trying to teach the dogs at the cats’ expense??

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  6. Gale says:

    My Dat, a Ragdoll, knows she is a dog and transferred some of her residual cat tendencies to the puppy. I have requested genetic testing from both breeders LOL.

    When the breeder delivered the kitten to me, it was a month after I had brought home a rescue. My top male dog had looked at Diva the kitten and barked at her, as if to say “You’re not a Cavalier!” and she had hissed back “so what!”. Within a day, they were cuddling together. There was some chasing, but the kitten had lots of places she could hide, and she quickly realized that no Cavalier would hurt her.

    Three days later, 2 more Cavaliers arrived for a month of boarding. One of them had been a brood bitch, and when Diva gave a little meow, the brood bitch wanted to find out what was wrong with the puppy, and she did this rather aggressively. My rescue became the kitten’s protector, lying across the opening to the Igloo bed I had got her.

    While all this is going on, I was toilet training her, and before the other dogs went home, she was fully toilet trained.

    At night, when the dogs go to bed, they run into their crates, and so does she. She loves her crate. She stays in there long enough to get her treat, and then she jumps out and we have our alone time.

    Last summer, when Diva was just about 2 years old, I brought home my newest Cavalier, a British import. The two of them get along like a house on fire. The cat gives the puppy her toys, and Joni destroys them. Diva takes the dog toys and plays with them. Diva will push Joni’s head out of her dish and take a piece of the kibble… and Diva will take a mouthfull of her kibble and drop it on the floor for Joni.

    My dogs eat lotsa veggies, and Diva is usually right there at the front. Rutabaga (or turnip as I call it) is favoured over anything.

    The cat does obedience just like the dogs. She sits, sits up, gives a paw then the other, gives me 5, goes down on command. She will also stay with a treat within easy reach, purring the whole time, and will only take it when I say OK, or take it, or her favourite “on your mark, get set………….. Go” and she won’t go until I finish the word go. She’s so smart. And, now, her newest trick is to ring a desk bell.

    I love clicker training!

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    Minette Reply:

    Good for you!! I too love the clicker training and have a very dog like cat as well! They are my favorite!

    Both cats and dogs are a joy in my house and I couldn’t live without the love of each!

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  7. Katie says:

    When I found two starving kittens, I had a big problem introducing these two into my present pack. The pack consists of two Berner Sennenhunde, two Flatcoated Retrievers, one little mongrel and a spaniel/pyrenean mountain dog mix. Four dogs live in the house, the other two in a kennel because they are too dangerous for the house dogs. The kittens showed no fear what so ever of the big dogs but merrily walked among them. The dogs only looked amused but made no contact either. From the start they were separated which means, there was a barrier between them which consisted of a 80cm high wooden plank placed in the door way. The dogs had no access to the room the kittens were in. We treated both parties very affectioned so there was no jealousy. Over the period of 6 – 8 month the now cats took possession of the rest of the house without any interference from us or the dogs. The house dogs accept the cats and visa versa but the story takes a sinister turn when it comes to going out. As the spaniel/pyrenean mountain dog is a cat killer, she is defined to a single kennel, the little mongrel is in another kennel being also a cat killer and the house dogs have the run of the court but it is barricaded, so the dogs can’t get out and the cats can’t get in, because the moment the house dogs leave the house the cats are prey. The cats are only allowed at the site of the house and the garden, the dogs are in a large run in front of the house. So far this arrangement has worked. There is no way I can stop the dogs hunting outside, only inside of the house will they accept the cats. Summer is the worst time as both parties want to get out. Winter is too cold for my little felines, so they stay in. Winter is easier to live with them.

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  8. Eileen says:

    My dog chases cats and is probably one of those dogs whom you can’t train to not chase cats. While walking on a bike path one day, an older white cat was out sunning itself; my dog saw the cat, sniffed a couple of times and went on her merry way. From that, I conclude, maybe wrongfully that a cat that she percieves as being owned is not a cat to chase. So far, I am unwilling to test that theory.

    Eileen

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    Minette Reply:

    Safety first! Only you know your dog, but I believe you are probably right. Often it is the sight of running cats that kicks the prey drive into high gear!

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  9. Roberta McIntyre says:

    Enjoyed all of the postings. Can have only one animal where I live, but in the past have have had great compatability with dogs and cats. What I am not successful with is walking with my jack russell off leash. She will be off like a flash if she spots a cat. Consequently, the leash is the only answer. My old lab was the same. Heeled perfectly except for a cat. Are some dogs just that way, or is it my inability to train?

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    Minette Reply:

    Some dogs are much more difficult to train off leash and some, simply can’t be safely trusted off leash! It is about trying to be more exciting than the cat, however Jacks often have very strong prey drives and so it may not be recommended to have your dog off leash.

    Think of it like having a Greyhound, they are so instinctively driven by their eyes, because that is how they hunt they are pretty much never recommended to be off leash!

    Work on off leash obedience in a controlled/fenced environment like a baseball park or dog park in the morning, but if your instincts tell you that its not safe to have your dog off leash, you know best 🙂

    Safety first!

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  10. Roberta McIntyre says:

    Thank you Minette for your reply. The deer and moose come into town, and her “prey drive” kicks in fast. She is like a bolt out of a cannon. It is so tempting to let her frolic, but, I realize that is not possible. We moved from a farm into town (retired) so we are learning to adjust. Only four dogs were allowed into this complex so lucky to have her.
    I appreciate your advice.

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  11. Hayley Clark says:

    Yeah I let my pup run free when we brought him home and I have 2 cats who have never met a dog in their whole life! but luckily our dog trainer told us to teach him ‘leave it’. so all is well but the cats still don’t like to be any where near him!

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  12. karen says:

    Hi, I hav 3 cats. 2 live outside and one has free run of where ever she wants to go. Last Christmas we were given a 2yr old lg chihuahua. she is a sweet little thing but doesn’t much like cats and the feeling was mutual. Now Katty(the inside+ cat) and Topaz(the dog) get along most of the time, but every ince in a while Topaz will just take off after the cat for no appearent reason.I know Topaz likes to chase and that is the bigest proplem with the cat outside, they hiss then run—too much fun –until our momma cat has enough then Topaz is yaping and running. It is kind of funny to watch but I really try to keep Topaz on a leash when we open the door. I have been having a particularly hard time with clicker training bcause I haven’t found a treat that works more than once. Topaz just doesn’t care about goodies.

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    Minette Reply:

    There must be something she finds motivating! For some dogs it is treats, for some it is toys, for some it is a game (like playing ball) and for some it is exclusive attention.

    What are you feeding her for her food?

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  13. karen says:

    she gets dry kibble. she will not eat if anyone is in the same room,everyonce in a while she will take a treat from my hand and run off with it. she loves attention – from me- no one else.cheese is one thing she will take from me, if she happens to be standing close to me but she will not get up an come to get it. it has been a chalange to try to train her, however when we got her she wasn’t house trained and with in a couple of weeks I had that under control, at least most of the time. every once in a while we will wake up in the morning and find a wet spot. she sleeps with me. she used to sleep between my husband an I but she has decided she doesn’t like him and will not go close to him unless she is feeling threatened and I am not available. she is a strange little thing but gives me lots of love.

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